SEL Focused Teacher Professional Development

Erin ToaleMission & Outcomes, Programs, Teachers

SEL focused teacher professional development

Teacher Professional Development Program at Working in the Schools meets teachers’ and schools’ need for SEL focused teacher professional development following years of unfinished learning.

WITS Summer Institute provides teacher professional development
WITS Summer Institute

WITS (Working in the Schools) is the largest literacy nonprofit providing mentorship to students and professional development to teachers in Chicago public elementary schools. WITS’ approach to promoting literacy prioritizes the goals of individual students, teachers, and schools so that their success is meaningful and lasting. The Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA) Summer Institute is an important professional development initiative for Chicagoland educators. Through RLTA, WITS supports teachers by providing a structured cohort for free professional development as well as book grants for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) classroom libraries. This fulfills a need indicated in the 2022 Advance Illinois Report, citing: “The pandemic’s impact on student well-being is clear, as is the ongoing need for more school and community resources.”

Returning to the classrooms.

This past summer, as WITS prepared to return to classrooms after two years of virtual programming, RLTA Awardees gathered to raise awareness about best pedagogical practices in CPS classrooms at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. Twenty study groups took place at nineteen schools, and the award was offered to ninety-five teachers. 2022 topics of focus included facilitating social emotional learning (SEL), supporting student mental health, and integrating accessible practices in the classroom. Many of these professional development sessions focused on social justice, advocacy, and unlearning deficit ideologies: for example, reframing “pandemic learning loss” as “unfinished learning.” A common plea WITS heard from teachers was the need for holistic, whole-school and community activation in order to provide the best support for the students and communities we serve as the 2022-23 school year will continue to bring its own unique challenges.

2022 Advance Illinois Report calls for more SEL focused teacher professional development

The 2022 Advance Illinois Report, quantifies the concept of “unfinished learning.” Citing causes such as limited school resources (including too few counselors, social workers, and psychologists), barriers to accessing existing services, and anxiety around missing instructional time due to the pandemic, the report states: “K-12 schools lack adequate resources to address increased student need for mental health supports and social-emotional learning opportunities.

“The RLTA program has encouraged me to continue my learning and [develop] my love of learning inside and outside of the classroom. I love the skills and strategies that I have learned while being involved in the RLTA program. I use things I have learned on a daily basis in my classroom and that is why the RLTA program is so beneficial. I actually use the things I have learned!”

RLTA Awardee Carrie from Edison Park Elementary School

The RLTA program at WITS addresses the need for professional development and classroom training on contemporary issues for Chicago teachers. What makes this program special is that WITS works with teachers to develop a curriculum that will best serve them – providing free, tailored programming year after year. This program is recognized as invaluable to the community and supported by BMO Harris Bank, Exelon Corporation, Polk Bros. Foundation, and The W. P. & H. B. White Foundation. Please consider sharing information about this unique program with the educators in your life.